World Baseball Classic 2013: Predictions for Early Round Action
With the United States boasting one of the most promising World Baseball Classic rosters ever, baseball fans should be excited for what the 2013 competition has in store.
The third edition of the WBC features some of the biggest names in baseball, with reigning Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey each competing.
With play beginning in less than a week, it's time to roll out first-round predictions for each pool.
Who gets out of the first round?
Scroll down to find out.
As winners of the first two WBC titles, Japan should again be considered favorites in Pool A.
This isn't the same Japan team we're accustomed to seeing—without the likes of Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka—but the Japanese still have the talent and experience to lead the Pool behind Toshiya Sugiuchi, Seiichi Uchikawa and Shinnosuke Abe.
Sporting the No. 1 IBAF world ranking, the Cuban team should make it on to the second round, despite Aroldis Chapman and Yoenis Cespedes not participating.
Brazil and China will each have their moments in the first round, but there's too much talent in Pool A for the two countries to advance to the second round.
Never finishing better than 12th in the WBC, keep your eye on Chinese Taipei in 2013, who will be at an advantage playing in Taichung, Taiwan.
In a short tournament, pitching is a must, and the Chinese Taipei squad has an advantage there with Hung-Chih Kuo and Chien-Ming Wang on the roster.
It won't be easy for the Netherlands, but I like the Dutch to advance to the second round behind the offense of Andruw Jones, Andrelton Simmons and prospect Xander Bogaerts.
Australia and South Korea will have to wait another three years for a shot at the WBC title.
Winner: Chinese Taipei
Pool C boasts some of the best talent in the WBC, but Venezuela is above and beyond the best team, with the likes of Elvis Andrus, Carlos Gonzalez, Pablo Sandoval and, of course, Miguel Cabrera.
I also like the depth of the Dominican Republic squad to thrust them into the second round behind Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Jose Valverde.
With some of the best MLB players all competing in the same Pool, you can expect some of the best action of the WBC to come in the first round from Pool C.
If they were competing in another Pool, Spain and Puerto Rico could arguably make it out of the first round, but with Venezuela and the D.R. looming, they don't stand a chance.
Runner-Up: Dominican Republic
Led by the offense of Ryan Braun, David Wright and Giancarlo Stanton and backed by the pitching of R.A. Dickey and Craig Kimbrel, the United States could very well earn its first ever WBC gold medal in 2013.
Mexico will be USA's stiffest competition within Pool play, as I see both of those countries making it to the second round.
Canada has some power behind Joey Votto and Justin Morneau, while Anthony Rizzo and Alex Liddi make up part of the Italian roster, but it won't be enough against a powerhouse like the U.S. and a promising Mexican club.
Look for USA and Mexico to advance to the second round, which will be played at Marlins Park in Miami.
Winner: United States
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